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Get smart... emotionally!
Skills for work2 min read

Get smart... emotionally!

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You’re smart. Your IQ is stratospheric. But these days, is that enough to get ahead in your career?

“No,” say employment psychologists and recruiters. You need great EQ as well. That’s “emotional intelligence.”

If you’ve got IQ you can think fast. If you’ve also got the self-awareness that’s at the heart of EQ, you’ve got the X factor for employment. EQ is the softer side of work, says Randstad psychologist Eleni Atsalakis, but has a very scientific edge.

Clare Johnson, who manages the HR team at Michael Page, says people with high EQ generally remain calm under pressure, respond well to criticism, and help resolve conflict by offering solutions. However, both emotionally positive and negative behaviours exist in the workplace. Here’s how to identify them:


Emotionally healthy and positive behaviour:

  • High EQ employees can empathise with others and build rapport, says Johnson. “This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to feel sorry for a person or agree with their ideas, but it does mean being able to see the situation from their point of view.”
     
  • Accepting feedback with an open attitude is another mark of the high EQ employee. An emotionally intelligent employee asks for examples of the issues raised at performance reviews, and for actionable suggestions about how they could rectify the situation.

Emotionally unhealthy and negative behaviour:

An emotionally intelligent employee asks for examples of the issues raised at performance reviews, and for actionable suggestions about how they could rectify the situation.
  • Johnson says people who argue, instead of agree, sometimes lack EQ. “Employees who have a need to prove that they’re right all the time by putting other colleagues down or disagreeing with their suggestions disrupt the unity and harmony at the workplace,” she says.
     
  • The other behaviour common among people with diminished EQ is playing the blame game. “Pointing the finger at colleagues, clients, business partners and anyone but oneself. Not having the courage to take responsibility when mistakes are made reflects an immature character,” says Johnson.
     

Unlike IQ, EQ continues to develop naturally until the age of around 50, says Atsalakis. It can also be worked on. The irony however, is that people with low EQ often aren’t sufficiently self-aware to realise they lack something. So, if you’re not great at collaboration, or you notice that people shy away from seeking out your opinion, it might be time to work on your EQ.

The antidote to low EQ can be as simple as engaging active listening skills to help you gain a better understanding of issues from a different perspective, says Johnson. EQ can also be improved by learning to handle criticism, and appreciating that mistakes often provide valuable learnings in the workplace.

If you can find alternative ways to behave in difficult situations at work, your increased EQ will make you more employable and more successful in your career. That’s why you see high emotional intelligence in leaders, says Atsalakis. It’s helped them rise to the top.

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